Sunday 26 June 2016

Influencing others - The impact of a faithful Pastor

Jesus’s life and example influenced and continues to influence others it is worth remembering that the things that we do, and the things that we say, also influence others.

Matthew 19:14 'Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do
 not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'
I was 6 years old and it was 1949, just a few years after the end of the Second World War. It started as a very ordinary day. I’d been down town to Tamworth with my mum doing a collection for the Salvation Army self-denial week however, things were about to change. On the way home when we got to the bottom of the hill where we lived I found that I couldn’t walk any further. When my mum realised that I wasn’t just playing up she gave me a piggyback all the rest of the way home. Later when were home, I used the potty and noticed that I was passing blood, much to my parents’ dismay. They called for the doctor and he thought I had got meningitis so he called for an ambulance. At the time we lived in a row of cottages with a shared courtyard and the ambulance pulled up right into the yard. I remember crying as the ambulance men came in to take me to the hospital and I remember my friends coming into the yard to wave me off which would be the last I saw of them for 10 months. Initially I was taken into Tamworth General Hospital and I was there for 2 months, after which a specialist from West Bromwich (the big hospital) came to see me and decided to move me to his hospital; were I was treated for the next 8 months.

I guess many of you would have seen pictures of the old-fashioned cots with the old metal bars; well I was in one of those for a while. At the time everything was scarce but I knew that God was with me, He was always with me. I was very blessed to have praying parents, family and church and I believe today that it was their prayers that bought me through. I was found to have Nephritis (a disease of the kidneys) and I was in the big hospital for a while when they took me on a trolley to see the doctor. I’ll never forget it, as this was the first black man I had ever seen and he was the doctor that examined me for my tonsils. He had a big light on his head and he said ‘right we’ve got to get these out’. I think it was the same day that they took my tonsils out because they discovered that it was the poisoned tonsils that were affecting my kidneys. They realized that they hadn’t asked permission from my mum and dad so they sent a policeman to my home. You can imagine my mum and dads thoughts as they saw the policeman at the door - they thought the worst; but he’d only come to tell them that I’d had my tonsils out without their permission. It must have been quite scary however phones in homes were rare in those days and it was often the police that delivered important messages.

The MacGreggor Cottages where I lived in at the time.
1949 saw the beginning of the NHS (The National Health Service in England) and in those days’ children weren’t allowed to have any visitors. Remember, I was only 6 years old and while I was still in Tamworth my mum and dad were able to wave to me through the window relatively easily but when I moved to West Bromwich my mum would have to make the 28-mile journey by bus. She would come every week to the hospital and come up as far as the ward doors and even though they wouldn’t let her in she still did this every week without fail. She was allowed to bring me sweets and fruit etc. which she always did however this had to be shared out among the whole ward. Food at the time was still scarce and that type of food was even scarcer although I did manage get some of it. This went on until I’d been in hospital, probably 9 months, but by this time my mum who was feisty had well and truly had enough. This particular day she said to my dad ‘I’m going to go and see our Elaine and I’m not coming home today until I’ve seen her’. So she came over to the hospital on the bus and went straight to see the matron and told her that she wanted to see her daughter who she hadn’t seen for 9 months and that she wasn’t leaving until she saw me. The matron was very understanding and bought my mum to see me on the ward. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing my mum walk down that ward. There was a little boy in the bed opposite and I remember saying ‘shut up - my mums here’ (in an excited tone), I hadn’t forgotten her and it was a wonderful reunion.

Although my parents and friends were not allowed to visit, there was one person they couldn’t stop and that was my pastor, he was lovely, I loved him dearly. Every week he made the journey on his motorcycle to visit me. His name was Ernie Harford but I called him Uncle Ernie. He’d come and keep me in touch with home: he’d tell me stories about Jesus; update me on my dog Chappie (who was and old English Sheep dog), tell me what was going on in the church; tell me what my family was doing etc; and so through him I was in touch with home - what a ministry. A little child of six wasn’t unimportant to him and I really thank God for him. He was one of the good folk in my life! He wasn’t just a Christian, I could see God in his life and in the life of his wife, what a lovely couple. I believe they are now amongst the cloud of witnesses that are now cheering me on saying ‘come on Elaine keep running the race’. Hebrews 12:1 ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith’ (Amplified Version).

After 10 months I came out of hospital looking like a pincushion. I’d had that many injections and it wasn’t the sort of injections that you get today; it was the big long needles with glass syringes because that’s the way that penicillin was given. Penicillin was relatively new when I was in hospital and very, very painful when the injections were given. I used to cry when I saw the nurse coming up the ward to give me the injection because I knew I was going to be in pain for a long time afterwards.

As I’ve said before my pastor (Uncle Ernie) had time for me; just like Jesus had time for the children as we see in Luke 18:15–17 ‘Now they were also bringing their babies to Him, so that He would touch and bless them, and when the disciples noticed it, they began reprimanding them. But Jesus called them to Himself, saying [to the apostles], 'Allow the children to come to Me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God [with faith and humility] like a child will not enter it at all’. (Amplified Version).

I wonder what it would have been like in bible times to have sat on Jesus’ knee? He would have had the little children on His knee as they surrounded Him: He loved the children and He told them stories - as well the adults. Children were there every time the people met together! Imagine what sort of impression that would have made on the children. What a role model! I was also thinking of the little boy who gave his loaves and fish in John 6:9; he must have been watching Jesus, he knew who Jesus was, he’d probably seen some of the miracles Jesus performed and yet this man who he admired was asking for his lunch. What a surprise that must have been! How blessed he must have been when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish and fed the five thousand (John 6:1-14). After witnessing that miracle I would think that that little boy would have grown up to follow Jesus! Jesus’s life and example influenced and continues to influence others and it is worth remembering that the things that we do, and the things that we say, also influence others. I believe that we should ‘suffer the little children to come unto us’ (Luke 18:16 - KJV) our children are very, very, very, very special. They are part of the church today and they are the preachers, pastors and workers of tomorrow. We should nurture them, encourage them take time to speak to them and hopefully they may look back when they are grown up and just like I did with my pastor; count us as some of ‘the good folks in their lives’.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ‘Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing’. Amen.

Author: Elaine Roach

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and others

Sunday 19 June 2016

God’s will not ours be done

I see life like a storybook and carnally we can only see the chapter of our story that we are living in right now. God however is the author of the book and He knows the beginning, the middle and the end. Things we don’t understand or that are painful at the time have to happen for our end to be perfect.

How often do we try to live our lives our way, on our own, making our own plans only to have those plans fall apart and crumble? To which we then turn to God and cry out and seek Him and pray for everything to be sorted. We pray for what we want, promising to never lose sight of Him again and in the midst of life and happiness, what do we do?; we go back to doing life our way and making our own plans. It is a cycle that many of us so easily succumb to however, when we TRULY realise that ‘Human plans are futile’ (Psalm 94:11) and completely surrender our lives to God and His will only, then will we have true purpose, happiness and peace. Proverbs 3:5-6 ‘Trust in the lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, remember the lord in everything you do and you will have great success’.

In the past I can see many times when I have lived my life my own way, making my plans, prioritising other people and things before God, only to have it all taken away and to experience heart-breaking pain in my human form at the loss of a loved one. All of my plans just disappear in an instant. Yet it is in these dark places that God truly reveals himself and in my loss and pain, I have to rejoice and be glad as God so clearly told me in Proverbs 16: 20 ‘Whoever heeds to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the lord’. Wow, how amazing! I had to have everything taken away to re-focus, to realise that this is my time to turn everything in my life around and live in God’s will and I am already beginning to see a huge transformation in all areas of my life. I have been reminded continuously that Christ is the solid rock on which we stand and all other ground is sinking sand, Amen! Psalm 18:2 ‘The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’.

You see, when we live our life our own way we lose our spiritual focus and abandon Him. In our human nature we tend to be selfish, consumed with our own interests, pursuing our own plans, but Proverbs 11:24 tells us that this spirit leads to poverty. When things in life are going well, we are so quick to put our time with God, our prayer life and our devotions on the back-burner, however what is the inevitable result of this selfish act? sin!  Living our own way and not being in the Word every single day leaves us vulnerable and that’s how we let sin enter our lives.  After all Psalm 119:105 ‘His word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’. The amazing thing though is that He loves us so much that He forgives us of all our sins even though we are so undeserving. If we are not continually seeking God and living each day with Him then we lose our focus, become weak, which then allows sin to creep in. This is why it is so important to put on the full armour of Christ as written in Ephesians 6:11 and to seek Him every day; Jeremiah 29:13 ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’.

No matter how much we try to do our own thing, make our own plans and map out our future we should always remember; Proverbs 16:9 ‘in their hearts humans plan their course, but the lord establishes their steps’ and when we go our own way and map out where our life also remember that; Hebrews 12:6 ‘the lord disciplines the one he loves’ and so if our focus is on Christ, there is only so long we can ‘do our own thing’ and stray from God’s will before He will intervene and discipline us.

I see life like a storybook and carnally we can only see the chapter of our story that we are living in right now. God however is the author of the book and He knows the beginning, the middle and the end. Things we don’t understand or that are painful at the time have to happen for our end to be perfect.  Remember this: God is a loving God who has plans to prosper us; Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.  So let us trust in Him and His will for our lives. After all, His word tells us in Psalm 37:4 ‘delight yourself in the lord and he will give you the desires of your heart’. Amen

Proverbs 20:24 ‘A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?

Author: Joleana O’Neill

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and others

Sunday 12 June 2016

It's Time to Grow Up!

There is a huge difference between being childlike and childish: one blesses a church, the other drains a church. One is spiritual, the other is carnal.

Spiritual growth and maturity is an essential characteristic of a true Christian, yet infant behaviour seems rampant in so many churches. It was A. W. Tozer who said that the visible Church of Christ includes at least four classes of people: First, average people who come to church regularly but are never converted. They enjoy church, their friends are there, but they have never passed from death to life. Second, those who have trained to be Christians, but are not. They have learned the language, give the impression they are a Christian and others think of them as such. Third, there are those who are true Christians, but carnal and are still as they were when first saved. Finally, there are true Christians but ‘unfortunately these seem to be the minority in most churches’. Tozer’s comments make sad reading, but his challenge cannot be ignored. A similar picture is found in the New Testament where Paul refers to the Corinthians as ‘mere infants’ and ‘spiritual babes’; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 ‘Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready’. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of believers being ‘slow to learn’; Hebrews 5:11-12 ‘We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food’! There is a huge difference between being childlike and childish: one blesses a church, the other drains a church. One is spiritual, the other is carnal.

There is something very tragic about an adult being childish. John Ortberg tells of a man called Denny who regularly attended church all his life, yet didn’t like the music and called in the local authority about the volume. Everyone guessed who had complained and laughed it off. However, Ortberg said it was no laughing matter as this guy was 60 years of age, his children couldn’t tolerate him, he stayed cranky and no one expected him to be any different. Those comments remind me of some words from Juan Carolos Ortiz, who said, ‘We have a phenomenon in the church today which I call the Eternal babyhood of the believer. We have members of our churches who, after years of hearing messages are just the same. They continually need a minister to keep after them, changing their diapers, putting talcum on them, and checking their milk isn’t too hot’. Perpetual infancy is not allowed in the Kingdom of God! Childish behaviour has to be addressed and confronted.

Immature, childish believers have these unhealthy traits:

• Self-centered – everything has to revolve around them.
• Influenced by their feelings – one minute they’re happy, the next           they’re screaming!
• Easily attracted by externals – a new sound or rattle quickly gets their   attention.
• Prefer play to work – unproductive apart from making work for others.
• Don’t take responsibility for their actions and behaviour.
• Live on a restricted diet, preferring to be spoon-fed and dependent.

Pastoring isn’t pampering! Growing as a Christian is a command not an option. Spiritual growth is a matter of attitude, not age. God has provided everything we need for growth, and maturity should be our burning ambition. If you’re wearing a small jacket, make sure you’re growing out of it!

Author: Alan Hewitt - AOG UK National Leadership Team 

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and others

Sunday 5 June 2016

Standing in the gap - Strengthening the body of Christ

If one part of the body (of Christ) suffers, then the whole body suffers, so sometimes we may need to stand in and support each other to make the body strong again.

Source: Own
‘What have we got in common with a dry stone wall?’ is a question I asked myself as I added the picture to the right to my social media profile. I took the photo recently whilst on holiday and I was struck once more at the skill of the people that build these walls. What at first glance may appear to be a randomly constructed pile of stones is in fact an intricate and well thought-out structure. As we continued our walk, a little further, we saw a gentleman who was in the process of re-building part of the wall.  I noticed that he quickly, but carefully felt the stones to find just the right one to put in the gap. He continued, even as he talked with us and the wall took shape surprisingly quickly.

In order to answer my question; ‘What have we got in common with a dry stone wall?’ at this point, I am like one of those stones right in the middle of the top row. Can you see where I mean? There are two stones leaning vertically into the middle, one is leaning to the right and the other to the left. In the middle there are two stones lying down horizontally, resting on the wall below them. The lower of the two horizontal stones is holding the two rows of vertical stones apart: and then there is me, the small one on top of it; acting as ‘a filler’, bridging the gap and playing just a small but significant part in strengthening the whole wall. Every component in the wall is significant and without any one of those stones the wall would be weaker and lose its strength. If a number of components were missing then when bad weather comes the wall would struggle and break down into disrepair.

My point is that we all need each other and we need to value the part that both we and others play. If we were all the same: size, shape, skill set, age, character etc. then just like the wall would not have the same strength and the storms of life could break us into pieces. This is also the case for the unity and diversity of the body of Christ; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 ‘Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many’. God’s word then goes onto tell us why each of us are important and significant in the body of Christ; 1 Corinthians 12:17-20 ‘If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body'. Each and every one of us who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour has a contribution to make to ensure that the body of Christ functions effectively. If one part of the body suffers, then the whole body suffers, so sometimes, just like the stones in a dry stone wall, we may need to stand in and support each other to make the body strong again.

As someone committed to facilitating children/adults to become the best that they can be: and as I strive to continually become the best I can be myself at any given time, I am extremely grateful that I have a diverse group of people around me that all act as stones in the wall. Each of us is prepared to fulfil our purpose in the group and in doing so we are also strengthening the body of Christ by loving and supporting each other.

So what have you got in common with a dry stone wall?  God tells us that we are important; Psalm 139:13-14 ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well’. Just like the stones in a dry stone wall; without YOU the body of Christ would not be as strong and the people you interact with would miss out on the qualities that make you unique. May God bless you richly in making your contribution and fulfilling your role in the body of Christ. Praise God.

Author: Julie Roach

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and others